TOURISM in Tanzania is rebounding after the Covid-19 period with increasing number of visitor arrivals boosting optimism that the sector will grow beyond pre-pandemic levels.
After taking a severe hit during Covid-19, tourists are starting to return to Tanzania with 1,034,180 registered between January and September 2022- a 68.4 per cent of pre-pandemic highest number of 1,510,151arrivals in 2019, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics.
The NBS data show July and August 2022 had the highest number of arrivals since 2015, indicating the sector is recovering from Covid-19 pandemic. Tourist arrivals reached 166,736 in July 2022 and dropped to 158,049 the following month.
The largest tourism market in the nine months of this year is Kenya with 115,269 tourists, followed by Burundi with 76,340 and the USA 73,938.
Tourism players attributed to the rise in number of arrivals to pre-Covid-19 bookings, where some of the visitors had made reservations before international travel restrictions were imposed in 2020 to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, seasonal nature of the tourism in Tanzania and aggressive marketing by the government and the private sector notably the Royal Tour documentary starred by President Samia Suluhu Hassan.
Tourism in Tanzania is all-year round but has high and low season. The dry period of May to October are the high or peak season, and most tourists visit the country, during this period since it is considered the best time to go on safari in Tanzania.
Low season generally runs from mid-March to May during long rains and November to mid-December during short rains.
“Many factors have contributed (to rising number of tourist arrivals). One is pre-Covid bookings. Some of the visitors are those who made bookings before Covid-19 and, of course, aggressive marketing led by President Samia Suluhu Hassan,” said the Chief Executive Officer of the Tanzania Tour Operators, Sirili Akko.
“It should also be noted that we’re in high season and many tourists prefer to visit Tanzania during this time,” he said.
Mr Akko said he was optimistic that the number of tourists would continue to increase and Tanzania can meet the 6.0 billion US dollars annual revenue earning target in 2025 from five million tourists, if measures to improve the business environment as well as strong marketing campaigns will be sustained.
He said the target could be attained if there will be no global economic hardship that will affect the sector.
“The target can be reached subject to how we are going to sustain improvements in business environment and marketing initiatives and if there will be no global economic hardships,” he said.
The tourism sector generated 1.4 billion US dollars in revenues in 2021, up from 1.0 billion US dollars in 2020, when it was severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on international travel, and 2.6 billion US dollars in 2019.
Before the pandemic, tourism was the largest foreign exchange earner, the second largest contributor to the gross domestic product (GDP) and the third largest contributor to employment.
The Chief Executive Officer of Hotels Association of Tanzania, Kennedy Edward said there were tourists who had made bookings before 2020 and paid security deposit for reservations.
“Some bookings for 2020 were made six months or a year before and the security deposits for reservations were made. These bookings were not cancelled. They were pushed back,” he said.
A significant number of bookings for this year’s high season were actually made before the year had even begun, he noted.
“For the time being I’m selling for high season next year. We’re now promoting for June 2023. Bookings for June 2023 are being made.
According to him it is difficult to know which one came because of the aggressive marketing initiatives and which had made bookings during pre-Covid period.
“It is true visitors are many this year. That’s a fact. And not all are from pre-booking. But it is difficult to know which one is from pre-booking and which one is not,” he said.
He said the high number of tourist arrivals could be attributed to the “seasonality nature of tourism to some extent and on top of that joint efforts by tourism players in public and private sector are bearing fruits.”
The HAT CEO said government efforts to promote Tanzania as a top tourist destination will help the sector achieve sustainable growth.
The country seeks to achieve its target of notching an income of 6 billion US dollars (about 14tri/-) from 5,000,000 tourists come 2025 as stipulated in the Third Five-Year Development Plan (FYDP III) of 2020/2021 to 2025/2026).
To promote sector competitiveness and linkages, FYDP III is prioritising the development and implementation of a clear tourism legal and regulatory framework and strengthening public-private dialogue and collaboration.
Key interventions include to promote new tourism products development and diversification for sustainable growth and to promote southern tourist circuit as alternative to other circuits.